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Super vs Special fuel — which is better for your car?

Last Updated On Wed Mar 13 2024

Fuel stations across the UAE offer Super and Special fuel. They both sound impressive and exciting — who wouldn’t want their car to run on something “super” or “special”? — but what are they? 

And what impact will choosing one over the other have on your car?

This can be a complicated area for new or inexperienced drivers. You want to know what type of fuel your car needs to perform at its best and to get maximum value for money, whether you’ll fill the tank yourself or get a station attendant to do it for you.

If you find Super and Special fuel types confusing, or have been told there’s no difference between them besides their name, this post is for you.

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What’s the difference between Super and Special fuel?

The Super 98 octane fuel type is more expensive than the Special 95 octane: the higher cost will either put drivers off or inspire them to try it, based on the assumption that higher cost means higher performance. But is that actually the case?

Possibly. It all depends on your car’s engine.

First, let’s focus on the octane rating. This is a number used to measure an engine and its fuel performance, e.g. 95 or 98. The higher a fuel’s octane performance, the longer it will take to detonate before the engine needs it. 

As a result, petrol with a higher octane rating is capable of withstanding more compression than petrol with a lower rating.

Super fuels are also denser than Special fuels, offering more power per liter. And while most petrol companies add cleaning additives to their fuels, higher-octane fuels include more of these additives to help injectors stay clean. 

Which fuel is right for your car (and does it really matter)?

So, we know the main differences between Super and Special fuels. But does it matter which type of petrol you feed into your car? 

Yes! 

You might have been told that using Super 98 octane fuel will boost your vehicle’s performance, but, sadly, it won’t actually bring any such benefits. 

And if you fill your car with a lower octane fuel than the manufacturer recommends? That could be bad. Very bad.

Super 98 octane fuel is intended for high-performance cars capable of reaching high speeds, as their engines utilize high pressure and temperatures to generate power. 

Super 98 petrol is able to withstand this and provides the engine with the energy it needs to run as it’s expected to. Special 95 fuel? That would explode too soon under these conditions.

In this context, an “explosion” wouldn’t be an immediate risk to your safety. But it could trigger “knocking”, as the incorrect air/fuel mix forces the engine to burn the petrol in an uneven way. If this happens just once or twice, your engine may remain unscathed. But multiple “explosions” like this can cause major damage over time. 

A “knocking” or even “pinging” noise will tell you if this is taking place within your engine, though these sounds can also be caused by other issues, so have an expert check it for you to be sure. 

How do you know if your car needs Super or Special fuel?

Your car’s user manual will usually include information on its fuel type. If you can’t find it, or you want a little extra advice, visit the manufacturer’s website instead. They might offer resources dedicated to answering these (and similar) questions, to help you out. 

Alternatively, speak to an attendant at a fuel station. They interact with dozens (maybe hundreds!) of vehicles and drivers each day, so they’re certainly in the know.

If you hear the “knocking” or “pinging” sound we discussed above, you could have filled your tank up with the wrong fuel — and you could have even been doing it for a while. 

The lesson here, then? Only use the fuel type recommended by your car’s manufacturer to keep your engine in its best condition and avoid potential damage. Take no chances and don’t simply guess: engine problems can be expensive to fix. 

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